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Poster: dark.starz Date: Jul 18, 2011 8:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: It's the Melody

When you take a look at the musical form; rhythm, harmony, melody, phrasing, tempo, time etc. there are many terms used to describe the structure of music.

Phil Lesh, TC, Keith Godchaux and Jeff Chimenti obviously had some level of classical training, what is most memorable about many classical compositions are the great melodies that stick in your head.

Melodies are heard everywhere and back in the 60's classical music had a large influence in hollywood films, television themes, commercials, elevator music etc. Growing up we were inundated with classical music, we’d make the annual pilgrimage to Orchestra Hall to see CSO perform, WFMT radio, film soundtracks etc. Of my vinyl collection about 1/10th is old RCA red seals and Mercury living presence classical lp’s.

And though I was never formally educated in music theory, was able to learn from my grandmother some piano, and self taught guitar. I had one excellent music teacher in 8th grade who was a major influence assisting me to my first audience performance.

I’ve played guitar for some 30 years, and free form improvisation is where i’m most expressive, drawing from the universe and channeling into music. There were times performing when i’d just start riffing a classical theme from a James Bond movie for no other reason than it popped into my head and used it to take the music in a new direction, the melody just pops up from the cornfields of your mind and you go with it. Unfortunately today, both guitars have sat in their cases for the last decade.

I recall hearing Gordon Lightfoot perform “If you could read my mind” on the radio in 1971 and riffed that melody to death on the guitar over the next year or so.

I mean take John Coltrane for example, he heard Julie Andrews (like many of us) sing My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music and the melody stuck in his head and then adopted it as a launching pad for free from improvisation, the use of the physical and the mental of one’s own logic made into an expression of sound, bringing about the musical sensation of unison executed by a single person or within a group.

The most obvious examples are the British bands who used classical musicians on some of their recordings, the Beatles (I am the walrus) , The Rolling Stones (ruby tuesday, dandelion) The Moody Blues etc. Classical music is deeply ingrained in the English culture.

Garcia was known for bringing many different melodies into his open space jamming, (tighten up jam, feelin groovy, mlb) etc. Weir and Keith could bring forth many different phrasing styles as did Lesh and even up the tempo a notch or two. Johnny Cash was known for emulating the rhythm of a train in his style of performing.

Take for example, Viola Lee Blues, a little three chord ditty in the key of “G”, good launching pad for some free form jamming, and after playing that theme to death, Garcia ultimately came up with the opening riff to China Cat Sunflower, also in the key of “G”.

So for musicians, melodic influences are everywhere, whether classical or jazz or even various rhythms and with music being a unique language unto itself, artists draw from every experience in life in one form or another.

This post was modified by dark.starz on 2011-07-19 03:32:15

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 17, 2011 9:20pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: It's the Melody

An interesting point about the similarity of the basic China Cat riff to Viola Lee Blues, I think you are onto something there! I'd say both riffs are G blues pentatonic starting with an upwards octave skip. There's actually a pretty big family of rock riffs in the driving blues vein that have some similar characteristics - in the Dead's material, Dear Mr. Fantasy and Rain are both covers with riffs I would say have some similar elements.